What will happen to DACA students during a Donald Trump administration?
Students who receive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals feel uncertain and are afraid to renew their DACA since Donald Trump was named President Elect
A typical evening in my home consists of my parents watching television in the living room while my middle sister is doing her homework on the kitchen table, and my youngest sister is nowhere to be seen because she has locked herself in her room. On a particular day, my sister and I were doing schoolwork when we heard a Spanish report on TV that grasped our attention. The report was about US senator Durbin from Illinois who was speaking on the floor of the US Senate in an effort to advocate for DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, executive order issued by president Obama in 2012. In the piece senator Durbin was talking about Ray Pineda, a catholic priest who was also a recipient of DACA. Ray is a student from Atlanta Georgia, and graduated from a catholic college with a degree in philosophy, he is now a priest in the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta; he did all of this without any federal aid. When my sister and I heard Ray’s story we both thought “Wow. We’re so lucky.” We’re fortunate because just a few years ago we were also undocumented students.
When I started community college I was an undocumented student. One of my biggest concern as an undocumented student was, how I am going to pay for my education? I could not sign up for Financial aid like all other students, and and I no idea of where to go for help. After finally speaking to financial aid office they informed me of AB540, while it did not provide any sort of monetary aid, it allowed undocumented student to pay lower in-state tuition rather than out of state tuition. Since my parents helped pay for my education out of pocket I was not able to take as many classes as I would have liked to. That first year of community college was constantly worrying about how I was going to get through it and it meant uncertainty for my education. Luckily I overcame all of these struggles and continued my second semester in Los Angeles Valley College. A year later my parents were able to obtain legal residency from the United States which meant that I finally got a green card and a social security number that made me eligible to apply for Federal Aid.
By the time I started University my tuition and my classes were paid for and I no longer had to worry. I can continue to work on my journalism degree from California State University, Northridge. I love writing, reading and listening to stories which is why I intend to do everything I can with my journalism degree. Perhaps I feel guilty that things worked out for me, and I am able to continue my higher education, when there are countless undocumented students who do not have the opportunities that I do. Some of these Dreamers are much smarter than I am and they’ve lived in this country longer; they deserve to have a bright future ahead of them. After I was able to obtain financial aid, I admit, I ignored the issues in the undocumented community. Perhaps because I no longer had to worry about myself, I thought I didn’t have to worry about anyone else either.
This subject has become a popular topic since the 2016 presidential election finally ended in November and Donald Trump became president elect. DREAMERS feel uncertain and are afraid to renew or even apply for DACA since Trump was elected president, because he promised to undo all executive orders they are terrified of what will happen if it’s taken away by the new president. Does this mean that the 728,000 people who benefited by DACA will be deported? Will they be arrested? Will they lose their jobs? If DACA is abolished will the government protect people from fear of deportation?
In california Dreamers can breathe a sigh of relief since the California DREAM Act was introduced in 2011. The Cal DREAM Act is state law that allows children who were brought to the state under the age of 16 and meet the required GPA of 2.5 to qualify for state funded financial aid. More than 370,000 low income students benefit from the Cal Dream Act, however, Cal Dream Act does not provide any form of legal residence and protection against deportation, it is simply a way for students to obtain financial aid from the state. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on the other hand, provides applicants with a social security number and a work permit but no Federal Student Aid, after two years applicants need to renew their DACA status. Since 2012, 728,000 have benefited from the Deferred Act.
Joseph J Huprich an immigration attorney whom I spoke to in Los Angeles Valley College said the following “A lot of DACA students are supporting their families from that work permit they get from DACA, it’s unfortunate because it only increases the likelihood of families being in poverty, undocumented families for the most part are living in poverty or at least the lower middle class, you can’t get above that without a work permit. That would be the saddest part about cancelling DACA.” Huprich also shared that since Trump became president elect he has not seen any new DACA application out of fear of providing the federal government with personal information, “the biggest negative about cancelling DACA is, not necessarily because people are going to get deported, because people who are eligible for [it] are the least priority people to be deported. They’re young, they haven’t committed any serious crimes, they’re productive citizens and those are the people that we want to keep here.” Huprich advises students to renew their DACA status by Dec. 19 when the renewal process ends. The attorney believes that a comprehensive immigration reform would be the solution for the uncertainty that has befallen on undocumented immigrants, or at least a pathway for Dreamers to become green card holders and ultimately citizens, although it is seems unlikely given that a Republican administration will be taking over the federal government.
Senator Durbin has continued sharing DACA stories with congress in an effort to save the executive order. Durbin’s lates subject was Laura Alvarado a lawyer from Chicago illinois who did not receive a single penny of Federal Aid and paid for her law degree herself. While people like Laura Alvarado face uncertainty about their future I believe the best thing I can do to contribute is to support each professional who has been able to succeed in their field thanks to DACA. While I still have legal residence, I’m planning to start process for natural citizenship of the United States by February 2017, I believe it’s a symbolic act to do so during a Donald Trump administration.